Casual observers, noting that L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling donated to Democratic politicians and was a frequent honoree by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), might wonder how it is that his racist opinions–which were apparently widely, if quietly, known–could have gone unnoticed for so long. Yes, he’s got money: that buys leeway. But the likelier answer is that he spent it in the right places.
Generally, people without some kind of track record for the cause don’t win honors from organizations like the NAACP–especially if they are registered Republicans–unless they contribute significantly, or have powerful friends, or both. And, conversely, outright racists–like Joe Biden, who praised then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2007 as “articulate and bright and clean”–are drummed out of political life, unless they happen to be Democrats.
Thus it is that Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) can refer to Obama as having “no Negro dialect,” but Cliven Bundy’s similarly insensitive remarks result in (appropriate) denunciation from all quarters. Thus it is that the president himself can attend, and donate to, a racist institution like Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ and win applause for a speech in Philadelphia vowing never to split with Wright (he did so weeks later).
The Democratic Party, to borrow a phrase from a former colleague, is the political Ganges, cleansing all sins. Or, to use a metaphor somewhat closer to home, it is the river through whose muddy baptismal waters all shall be given the opportunity to be born again, politically. You can be a member of the Ku Klux Klan, you can be a mob-mustering antisemite, you can even be a former Republican. Just write the right checks, and all will be forgiven.